Who are the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia?
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the traditional owners of the land of Australia which is the oldest continuous civilisation on earth, extending back over 65,000 years. Their cultures are incredibly intricate and diverse – with different stories, languages, ceremonies, arts and knowledge which is passed down from one generation to another.
What is Closing the Gap?
The Closing the Gap campaign is a strategy developed by a coalition of Australian governments to tackle issues disproportionately affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. There is currently a gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in the achievement of key indicators of development – child mortality, early years education, children’s literacy and numeracy, school attendance and completion, employment and life expectancy.
The Closing the Gap initiative signalled an end to decades old Indigenous affairs policy in Australia. Recent Closing the Gap reports show that, despite some progress, more initiatives focusing on holistic approaches – supported by community knowledge and wisdom and in partnerships with First Nations communities and organisations – are needed to drive further change.
When did Closing the Gap start?
In his social justice report 2005, then Social Justice Commissioner Professor Tom Calma appealed to the governments (COAG) of Australia to commit to achieving equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within 25 years in the areas of health and life expectancy.
History shows us that what began as the National Indigenous Health Equality Campaign (2006) was formally introduced as close the gap in December 2007. A coalition of more than 40 Indigenous and non-Indigenous health and human rights organisations unified to achieve health equality (measured as life expectancy equality) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by 2030.
When is National Close the Gap day?
National Close the Gap Day falls on 21 March. On this day we acknowledge the disparity in the health and life expectation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Closing the Gap refresh strategy recommits COAG to working in partnership with the Indigenous and non-indigenous communities of Australia, uniting Australia’s peak Indigenous and non-indigenous health bodies, NGOs and human rights organisations in common purpose.
Why is Closing the Gap important?
Closing the Gap is aimed at reducing disadvantage among Indigenous peoples with respect to child mortality, childhood education, life expectancy and health. Increasing life expectancy is not only a health issue, but also, a human rights issue and is central to the empowerment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
While Australia enjoys one of the highest average life expectancy of any country, the same is not true for many Indigenous communities. In general, non-Indigenous Australians have greater opportunities to obtain better housing and healthcare and have higher rates of employment. Closing the Gap aims to breach the health gap and disparity in mortality rates and living standards between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is central to moving Indigenous communities beyond “surviving to thriving” and to achieve parity for all Australians.
Is Closing the Gap working?
The annual Closing the Gap Report documents the progress of the seven targets central to the Closing the Gap strategy.
The report confirmed that only two of the seven targets showed progress; early childhood education and Year 12 attainment figures.
Targets around child mortality, employment, education and life expectancy have not been achieved. In the context of remote communities, the gap may be as much as 20% higher.
- Halve the gap in child mortality rates by 2018: not achieved
- Close the gap in school attendance by 2018: not achieved
- Reduce the gap in life expectancy by 2030: not on track
- Halve the gap in reading and numeracy in 2018: not achieved
- Halve the gap in employment disparity by 2018: not achieved
- Halve the gap in Year 12 attainment or equivalent by 2020: on track
- Close the gap in early childhood education attendance: on track
However, in December 2018 COAG partnered with Indigenous Australians to finalise the Closing the Gap refresh in which the new framework targets were set in the priority areas of: health, education, employment, families, children and youth, health, economic development, housing, justice and land and waters.
How do we achieve change in the communities?
We strongly believe that a community-led development model is the most effective way of achieving long-term, sustainable change. We also bring our expertise from international development and tailor it to the needs of each Indigenous community with whom we partner.
This allows us to ensure communities are supported to achieve their own development goals, can build on their own strengths and actively create meaningful solutions to their own challenges. As a part of our pledge to helping the world’s most vulnerable children, we are committed to listening to the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
This is because listening well goes to the core of our approach – building trust and strong relationships – that form the foundation for achieving positive outcomes and lasting change.
For a summary, see the Prime Minister's Closing the Gap reports here.
Find out more about our work.